Muda, the right to associate and home ministers

FEBRUARY 11 — On May 9, 2018 Hamzah Zainuddin starts the day as a minister from an Umno state and ends it as an Opposition MP. This is because Pakatan Harapan takes control of the Dewan Rakyat and also Perak.

The hattrick win for Larut parliamentary, his third since 2008, seemed hollow.

He leaves Umno later in December, goes independent for a few polite months, and receives his Bersatu Pribumi membership card from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on February 12, 2019.

He then passes his time strategically; eventually Mahathir’s exit and Muhyiddin Yassin’s rise are associated with him.

Hamzah then duly becomes Muhyiddin’s home minister

Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin speaks during a press conference at the Home Ministry in Putrajaya February 2, 2021. — Bernama pic
Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin speaks during a press conference at the Home Ministry in Putrajaya February 2, 2021. — Bernama pic

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The whole thing goes full circle as the Registrar of Society (RoS) — under Hamzah — rejects Muda and Pejuang registrations. Both parties are Bersatu offspring set up to unseat it.

At this point, I’m going to sip my coffee and enjoy the Schadenfreude.

Muda’s protem president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman openly admires Mahathir for his leadership qualities. Surely, he can appreciate that Hamzah, with all his years in Mahathir’s Umno, without missing a heartbeat picks up from the venerated leader’s manual.

“Never play fair, always say you are fair, control who gets to say it’s fair, and never say sorry.”

To Syed Saddiq, he hopes non-participation in GE15 offers him wisdom.

To Mahathir, he begs the nonagenarian to look at a mirror.

From me, a pub quiz question: Both competing factions after Umno was ruled illegal submitted applications to the ROS, but only one was allowed to insert Umno in its name. Who was the home minister?

2B pencils and dreams

In the present, the minister points to alleged submission errors by Muda which pursued a judicial review — spoiler alert, it was rejected.

The thing is, even if the allegations were true, why does ROS not ask them just to correct the errors?

It is 2021 and using clerical errors as a basis to stall is really stupid. I tried looking for other words to describe it, but stupid covers it well.

In refutation, I almost expect ROS and the minister to retort that they process thousands of club, society and association applications monthly.

Yes, but the minister can differentiate and apply reason, no?

A mass political movement in the back of a frustrating power shift supported by hundreds of thousands of young people, should warrant more attention and priority.   

This brings me back to my school days when the teachers gave us our examination registration forms. One form per student to be filled with a 2B pencil. I was petrified. Absolutely. Your whole fifth form is wasted if they don’t let you take the SPM.

I had horrible penmanship. My art teacher used to ignore me to avoid migraines. So, staring at the form, needing to fill the entire soft rectangles correctly was daunting. Sign up for industrial design, and not bookkeeping and this would have been a different type of column.

I didn’t know that people in power can do the right thing and help those who make honest mistakes fix it. That the whole examination computer registration system wouldn’t collapse because one kid filled it wrong. It’s just a form. It can be replaced.

That’s the point to the current proposition.

Agencies cannot be blasé about national politics and its players when the stakes are high and the country’s future is determined.

Why can’t we be friends?

The Muda and Pejuang debacle drags the Constitution’s Article 10(C) in. All citizens have the right to form associations.

With obvious qualifiers to protect the federation.

The spirit nevertheless is people can come together to pursue common interests with legal recognition. Regardless, if it’s a congkak club or a league of people committed to wearing ugly ties.

And yes, political parties too.

The organisation does not need to make sense to those who approve it — ROS in this situation — but to those in it.  

ROS regulates societies to protect members’ interests. For instance, fees, properties and liabilities are monitored. Elected leaders asked to remain within society constitution and respect general meeting decisions. Always, always, members at the apex of the organisation.

In short, ROS referees. No more, no less.

Life is short, and it is horrible to think that some of us can’t group under legal protections simply because those assigned to regulate don’t like us.

Societies, clubs and associations enable us to construct polity inside our lives. The idea of us belonging together is easier manifested in smaller units where ceremonial and legal events, like dinners and AGMs reminds us of our involvement. Our proof of life.

Yeoh Cheang Swi used to tell me at VIOBA (Victoria Institution Old Boys’ Association) AGMs, the year he’s a no show we’ll know he’s passed on. Uncle Yeoh, a Cobra Club founder, died in 2016.

Floodgates

The power is with the minister and I wonder again if he remembers when he was last most vulnerable, on May 9, 2018.

He can approve Muda and Pejuang. Just because Mahathir was a bully does not mean the current minister has to bully him.

Even if approved, Saddiq may hit a wall with Pakatan, which has its own youths to think about.

Sadddiq ditched Umno when he was a media darling and forego his government position to fight Muhyiddin. He has it in him to take Muda solo. Which may work in Bersatu’s favour.

An unregistered Muda contesting as independents using birds, flowers, pencils and umbrellas as logos, might not be the disadvantage it used to be.

In 2018, Batu candidate P. Prabakaran went from random independent to PKR emergency candidate within days after Tian Chua’s candidacy was rejected, and won handsomely.

Technology disrupts government from reducing options and realities. It’s time the government gets into line to avoid obsolescence.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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